8 min read

Using Online Reference Checks to Assess Soft Skills and Cultural Fit

Enhancing recruitment involves leveraging online reference checks to evaluate soft skills and cultural fit effectively, ensuring candidates align with the company's values and work environment. These platforms streamline the process by soliciting feedback from diverse references, providing comprehensive insights for informed hiring decisions.

Let's Be Real - Skills Aren't Everything

When companies are hiring, they obviously want people with the right skills and qualifications for the job. But here's the thing - technical abilities alone don't guarantee a great employee. There's way more to consider beyond just what's written on someone's resume.

Two incredibly important factors that can make or break a successful hire? A candidate's soft skills and how well they'll vibe with the company culture. Let's break those down:

Soft skills are all those harder-to-measure personal qualities that impact how people communicate, collaborate, solve problems, and generally succeed in a work environment. Things like teamwork, adaptability, time management and emotional intelligence.

Cultural fit means how closely aligned a candidate's values, personality and work style are with the vibe and expectations at a particular company. It's about making sure they'll be a smooth fit within the organization.

You can have two candidates on paper with identical hard skills and experience. But one could possess excellent soft skills that allow them to gel with colleagues and resolve conflicts effectively. While the other may be brilliant but terrible at teamwork with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude that clashes with the company's laid-back culture.

Which candidate would you rather hire? Exactly! That's why evaluating soft skills and cultural fit is so crucial when bringing new employees on board where you're shaping the future workforce.

The Online Reference Revolution 

Traditionally, companies have tried to get a read on candidates' soft skills and cultural fit through interviews, personality tests, that kind of thing. But there's also always been another key part of the process: reference checks.

The old way was having recruiters manually call or email references provided by the candidate - usually past managers and colleagues. But that approach is inefficient, inconsistent, and often doesn't provide a complete picture.

That's where online reference checks come in. These days, more and more companies are turning to specialized online platforms and tools to improve and streamline the reference checking process.

How Online Reference Checks Work

Here's a quick rundown of how these systems typically work:

Companies send reference requests through the online platform to a pool of people who know the candidate well - former coworkers, clients, managers etc. The candidate provides those contacts during the hiring process.

The references receive an email inviting them to complete a confidential, anonymous survey about the candidate.

The survey asks focused questions aimed at evaluating the candidate's key soft skills like communication abilities, collaboration strengths, problem-solving approach and more. There are also questions that shed light on the candidate's values, personality and motivations to gauge cultural fit.

All the reference survey responses get compiled into a report that the hiring company can review to get a comprehensive, multi-dimensional view of the candidate's soft skills and potential organizational fit.

Why They're a Game-Changer

So, what makes online reference checks so valuable, especially when hiring? A few key advantages:

  • Anonymity Encourages Honesty: By keeping references anonymous, they feel more comfortable giving fully candid feedback without fear of burning bridges or other consequences. You get way more honest, unvarnished insights.
  • Collective Intelligence: Rather than just hearing from a small handful of references, these platforms allow you to easily crowdsource feedback from a wide range of people who know the candidate well in different ways. More diverse perspectives mean better evaluations. 
  • Standardized Assessments: Unlike traditional reference convos that can vary wildly, online surveys ask all references the exact same set of tailored questions. You get consistent data that's much easier to analyze and compare candidates.
  • Soft Skills: Online reference check questions are purpose-built to provide in-depth evaluations across a wide array of soft skills - everything from communication skills to problem-solving abilities to emotional intelligence. You see candid examples, not just what candidates self-report. 
  • Cultural Fit: Specific survey questions also allow companies to objectively assess how well a candidate's values, work style and personality mesh with the organization's culture. No more guesswork around finding the right fits.

In other words, online reference checks provide an incredibly robust way to analyze two of the most important but hard-to-measure factors when hiring: soft skills and organizational fit. And the data-driven insights are pure gold for evaluating candidates transparently and holistically.

Making the Most of Online References

Of course, there are a few pitfalls companies need to avoid when leaning on online reference checks:

  1. Anonymity doesn't mean zero accountability. Make sure platforms have measures to verify references and prevent fraudulent/unreliable feedback.
  2. Individual responses shouldn't be weighted too heavily. Look for broad patterns and consistencies across many data points.
  3. As powerful as they are, online references shouldn't be the sole hiring criteria. Use them as one objective component within a comprehensive assessment process.

To truly unlock the benefits, companies should follow some best practices:

  • Set clear intentions for referencing checking and customize surveys accordingly
  • Gather feedback from a diverse pool of references across different roles/relationships
  • Apply structured scoring models and objective review processes
  • Allow candidates to view and respond to any potentially concerning feedback
  • Continuously analyze results to optimize future hiring processes

The Future is Collaborative Hiring

Just a few years ago, online reference checking was still a novel concept. Today, it's quickly becoming the norm for forward-looking organizations due to its ability to drive better hiring outcomes.

And this is really just the beginning. As these online platforms continue evolving through innovations like:

  • Incorporation of AI and machine learning for smarter assessments
  • On-demand mobile referencing for increased speed and engagement
  • Secure permanent credentialing to reduce repetitive reference gathering
  • Seamless integration with other hiring tech like skills assessments and video interviews

Very soon, online reference checking will become one pillar within holistic "collaborative hiring" models that crowdsource richer candidate insights from countless sources using advanced data capabilities.

The benefits of finding employees who gel with an organization's culture and integrate smoothly are immense - increased engagement, higher retention rates, healthier workplace dynamics and innovation, to name just a few.

And by harnessing the collective intelligence of online reference insights about soft skills and cultural fit, companies gain a huge competitive hiring advantage. One that allows them to consistently build high-performing teams of not just employees who look great on paper, but those who truly thrive at the organization. 

For companies devoted to hiring top early talent for critical roles, the value of thoroughly evaluating organizational fit and having a high EQ workforce can't be overstated. After all, those hires are the ones tasked with carrying a company's culture forward into the future.

The online reference check revolution has arrived, and its superpower is putting the right people in the right seats - individuals with the soft skills and values to elevate teams and seamlessly embrace company cultures from day one.

By embracing this new collaborative, data-driven approach to referencing, hiring teams finally have the tools to stop enduring bad-fit hires or candidates who wash out from skills deficiencies beyond their resumes.

Instead, the future of hiring belongs to the companies that leverage technology to objectively identify not just qualifications, but the type of passion, emotional intelligence and organizational compatibility that leads to engaged, high-achieving, sustainable team success.

It's all about finding those keepers early through more well-rounded assessments. So, when companies are ready to take their hiring to the next level and find those elusive incredible-on-paper AND incredible-in-practice candidates? Sign them up for the online reference checking advantage.

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